Sugababes/Numan ‘Freak Like Me’ mash-up & video…
Instead of joining in the screaming as we plummet – presumably – to our inevitable deaths, down the endless mountainside, Justin Time takes out a hip flask and unscrews the lid, for a large swig.
I don’t know whether I run out of breath, or the frustration with his lack of physical panic gets to me first.
“We’re going to die!” I shout, hoping for a reaction.
“A purely existential assumption,” he shrugs, the air passing by at speed causing his driving-cape to billow, from the slight movement of his shoulders. He takes another slug from the silver flask.
“But – I don’t want to die!”
“Then don’t,” he grumbles, and mutters, although I still hear him. “Stupid girl…”
So frustrating! The things you have to put up with, when you no longer have a Carvery Slaughter handy, with a gun…
Mr. Time puts away his flask, smacks his lips a few times, and then lets out a strange, piercing, eerie whistling sound. It echoes off the rocks and along the miles and miles of valleys, obscured by mist.
“What was that for?” I ask.
“Thought that was the noise we supposed to make,” he says, surprised. “Before ‘splat!’ You never watch Roadrunner? Higham Dry Senior, he love that cartoon. He throw people off roof all the time, having Who-Make-The-Best-Wheeeeee-Splattt-Noise competitions. Very funny.”
And he sighs, reminiscently.
Damn. I thought he was summoning his magic flying rickshaw, or something helpful like that…
“I suppose we should try for the Seven a.m. Lounge, then?” I hint. “How do we find it?”
“Oh, you can’t miss it. It got big neon sign and an arrow, saying ‘Seven a.m. Lounge’. And you just dive straight in.”
“Really?” I strain my eyes hopefully, through the all-encompassing gray mists.
“Yes.” Justin Time nods. His long whiskers trail straight upwards, in the rushing air. “Right next to sign pointing straight down that say ‘Certain Death’. Make sure you not aim for that one, if you struggle with concept of existentialist existence.”
I spend the next few minutes desperately scanning the obstinately unoccupied air all around me, for any hint of neon illumination.
“Are we nearly there yet?” I demand at last, my patience having been tested to snapping point.
“I was thinking it should have been two, maybe three minutes ago,” Mr. Time remarks. “Oh well. Perhaps there is a power cut. Or someone pull wrong switch when going to toilet. It happen two, three, sometimes five hundred times a day…”
“Big fort,” Justin Time mutters, as if I’m an overly-critical, nagging Great-Auntie. He reaches for his flask again resignedly. “Lots of soldiers use same toilet.”
“But… but… b…” I realise I’m now doing that thing called ‘blustering’. Or is it ‘bumbling’? No… I’m sure one of them means ‘lost for words’ while the other means ‘couldn’t find their own arse even if their head was up it’…
At times, I feel as though I need a word for myself that means both at once…
“Oh, no,” Justin Time chirps. “There it is…”
And his boot certainly does find my arse – a head of any description up it at the time, or not. I somersault through the air, and only have a split second to glimpse the glowing green and blue flickering glass tubes spelling out ‘Seven a.m. Lounge’ before I tumble into the circle of pitch blackness beneath.
I get an even briefer glimpse of the other red sign, pointing down the way we were previously heading – but all I see of it is the word ‘Death’ before I am sucked into an apparent vacuum of darkness.
“Justin!” I shout. My words are whipped away, and do not seem to travel with any great volume at all. I can neither see, hear… nor smell the rickshaw-less pilot.
Did he make it through? Is he behind me, somewhere in this black Hell-hole?
Or is he drinking his last minutes into oblivion… no doubt before making a record-breaking ‘splattt’?
And then I have the most terrifying thought… the Seven a.m. Lounge – what if this is it?!
Just more tunnels! Sucking one along twists and turns indefinitely, like being inside the innards of a gluttonous vacuum cleaner! Supposing this leads nowhere?! Following this invisible giant intestine for ever, around any corner of which could be the final giant acid-bath of a stomach…
How long before I pray aloud for the end, and the sweet mercy of total digestion?
The tears are milked from my very tear-ducts by the controlled and continuous drop in directional air pressure, and my ears pop their own wax like corks from Cristal.
It will be my fingernails next, I find myself thinking. Then eyeballs… then the hair from my follicles… like a slow-motion, deep-space piece of human jetsam…
“Crispin!” I cry out my last words, I believe – sucked right from my mouth, making no sound at all. “Help me, Crispin Dry! You’re my only hope…”
Relentlessly, the walls of the tunnel whoosh by, unseen…
* * * * *
My feet strike something solid, and gravity suddenly reasserts itself, jolting me awake from the semi-coma where consciousness had been drawn out of my body in turn. I am upright, in darkness still – and the surface I am standing on feels wobbly and unstable.
My arms flail instinctively, scrabbling at the air around me for purchase. Nothing – until the very tips of my fingers, and typically blunt, chewed nails just graze the unmistakable feel of brickwork. But as I snatch my chafed fingertips back from the bite of baked clay and mortar, the surface I am standing on lurches – as does my stomach.
“Where am I?” I cry out, feeling the bubbling hysteria already gathering lubrication at the back of my throat and nasal cavity. But at least my voice has returned! “Crispin Dry! Justin Time! Over here!”
“Oooh,” I hear a strange, clipped English voice nearby. “Sounds like there’s a fish-and-chip cart hiding down this alleyway…”
Not the first thing I was expecting to hear, by a long straw…
“Fish and chips!?” I repeat, stunned.
“See – told you!” says the voice, now drawing nearer. I think I can make out the faint glow of a bobbing torch or lamp approaching, and through what I can only describe as a pea-souper of smog, the yellowish light flickers faintly off the tall narrow brick walls flanking me on either side. “Bloody interlopers!”
“Let’s get a closer look at the competition,” a nastier voice remarks. It sounds like it comes with sharp edges and blunt instruments attached. And possibly, industrial-sized deep-fat fryers…
I look down, in a panic, as my eyes adjust slowly to the gloom. I’m about six feet off the ground, standing on…
The back of the rickshaw!
And the rug is still harnessed, undulating idly at the front – as if taking a light snooze.
Fear propels me into action. I reach down and snatch up the long leather reins. My left hand finds the driving-whip, stashed in a holster down the side.
Without waiting to seat myself traditionally down below, I whirl the whip wildly around my head, and flick it down violently, hoping to alert the flying carpet.
It does more than that.
The whip cracks like a gunshot in the narrow dank alleyway, and the carpet rears up. The rickshaw tilts in turn – and if it wasn’t for my hand on the reins, my now prone position would be on the pavement. Not still on the top, with my toes frantically gripping the canopy.
“Look out!” shouts the first voice. “It’s an invasion – from the Six a.m. Lounge!”
“Let’s leggit!” yells the other. “We’ll need reinforcements!”
“Forward, er – Oh Great Flying Carpet!” I order, in my most imperious voice. Trying to sound a little bit like I imagine the zombie Lord Higham Dry Senior would chivvy one of these along – or scary zombie queen, the Lady Glandula de Bartheline.
The rickshaw rights itself, and I do indeed find myself moving forward. And at what a pace!
We leave the alleyway up on one wheel, and through the smog find I am hurtling through a street-market. It is dark, like night, but the darkness seems to be a factor of the heaviness of the sooty fog, and not of the time of day.
Stall-holders scream and scatter upon espying the flying carpet charging their way, including butchers, flower-sellers, ironmongers – where IS this place?!
After decimating a hundred yards of market-stalls, it occurs to me that the rug can do more…
“Up, Great Flying Carpet!” I command, sticking with the theory that flattery will get me everywhere…
And it does…
We – or rather, I, and the carpet-propelled flying rickshaw – clip the tops of the last few stalls, and soar over the rooftops.
In the paler gray fog above the streets, I make out narrow streets, a strange domed cathedral, a clock tower – and a great river…
It can’t be…
“Down, Oh Great Flying…” I whisper, and the carpet dips towards those iconic banks, and the promenade.
“Hrrrrmmmph?” a strange voice pipes up. “Oh, nooooo. We here already?”
A smaller rug below me on the rickshaw moves aside, and a decidedly-smelling-of-moonshine Justin Time pops his head out, empty hip-flask in hand.
“How did YOU get here?” I ask, amazed.
“Well, obliviously…” He waves an arm in a drunken, all-encompassing-in-every-context-of-the-word gesture. “I whistled for the flying run, and he come rugging, innit?”
And he burps, worthy of any river-bound foghorn.
I’m so flabbergasted, staring down at him from my perch standing atop the rickshaw’s canopy, that I completely forget that we are still barrelling along apace.
Or to look out for the crossbar of the street-lamp, as it cracks into my sternum like a poleaxe…
The Magician’s Nephew, by CS Lewis: Fanmade book-trailer, with original illustrations 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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